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Did you know that Amazon has a list of the top-selling and free sci-fi and fantasy books?
The list changes constantly — authors set their books to free temporarily to promote their work, and, of course, books move up and down in the rankings. But are any of the books actually worth reading? Well, I read the first few chapters of each to find out, so you don’t have to.
This week’s list is completely different from those of the previous weeks. So if you’re a fan of free books, it looks like there are going to be new things to read all the time.
I’ve noticed that if you try to open the list on a mobile device, it will take you to the listings that cost money, instead. I’ve found that by switching to the ‘desktop site’ in the mobile browser, the free list comes up.
Oh, and if there’s a book that catches your eye, grab it quickly, since the books are often free for only a short time. And, Amazon allows you to lend your e-books, for free, to your friends. Even free e-books. Here are the instructions.
Most of these books are the first book in the series, and in each case, I’ve checked to see whether the rest of the books are free as well, or whether they’re in Kindle Unlimited. Learn more about Kindle Unlimited here.
The list is accurate as of the time of writing but may have changed since the story was posted.
1. Shield-Maiden: Under the Howling Moon by Melanie Karsak
This is the the first of five books in The Road to Valhalla myth and legend fantasy series. The other books are $7.99 to $9.99 each and are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Hervor is a warrior who lives with her mother and grandfather and the rest of her extended family. Her grandfather is the Jarl, a local leader. She does have a good relationship with him, but saves his life, and that of the other family members, when they’re attacked in the middle of the night.
Despite her prowess with her axes, her grandfather wants her to do womanly, feminine things — and her actions saving his life don’t change his mind.
But Odin has given her a dream, a dream of a dwarven sword. As soon as her cousin Leif is back from the king’s court she plans to join him when he goes out on his raids.
I like Hervor. She’s tough and focused, she’s got great skills. She’s been going up into the mountains to train with a woman warrior who lives by herself, with her two pet bears. And I love the world building here. The Norse setting really comes alive.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book.
2. Memoirs of a Time Traveler by Doug Molitar
This is the first of four books in the Time Amazon time travel sci-fi series. The other books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Amira Loutfi:
I like this one. Just as I was starting to get a little impatient, the plot moved along nicely.
So we start out with a famous baseball player, Andy, who won’t stop sending flowers to Dave’s gorgeous cousin, Lori. They used to be engaged, but now she won’t have him back. So Dave, the protagonist, has to go tell him to leave her alone.
I’m not entirely sure why, but Dave wants to have this discussion right before one of Andy’s big games. Why must Dave bring personal drama into Andy’s workplace? Ah well, it made for a great scene. And Andy dies on the same day.
He’s been having a bad year and he is about to get cut from the team. His coworkers treat him like a pariah. Then, a strange man interrupts and asks for an autograph on a new baseball. In exchange, he gives Andy a really old ancient baseball signed by a baseball legend that Andy adores. Andy immediately recognizes the signature and handwriting and believes it’s authentic.
During the game, Andy hits five homers, and apparently, that’s legendary. I don’t know anything about baseball, but I found this first chapter to be very exciting.
So where’s all the time travel-y science fiction-y stuff? First, it’s in the strange man asking for an autograph from Andy when it appears that he is right about to get cut from the team. How would this stranger know that Andy’s signature would be worth anything?
The second is the ancient baseball that he gave in exchange for the one with Andy’s signature. It has a few anachronistic qualities that scream “time travelers!”
I highly recommend it if you are interested in time travel. I might come back to this one if I keep thinking about it …
From Melody Friedenthal:
I loved the setting of Memoirs of a Time Traveler. Our narrator is an archaologist (I took a few classes in archaeology when I was an undergrad) but also a skilled fencer – this latter detail sold me on this book — I fenced in high school, college, and after.
They say the devil’s in the details and I figured this was the sword-analogue to Anton Chekhov’s oft-quoted “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.” And I was right: we get some swordplay soon enough.
We also get an ancient untranslated language, Minoan. I love linguistics! We also have a mysterious baseball with “powers” and a female Minoan named Ariyl who is as strong as the legendary Minoan bulls. Fencing, linguistics, archaeology, a strapping female with agency, and time travel!
Yes, I’m going to finish this one!
3. Cocoa and Curses by Julie Nisse
This is the first of five books in the Witches of Noel Lodge cozy paranormal mystery series. The other books are $4.99 each and are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Livbeth just turned 41, and her husband has forgotten her birthday. But it gets worse. He wants a divorce. He’s traded her in for someone more suitable to his role as a partner in a law firm, even though Livbeth helped put him through law school.
So she leaves Dallas and goes back to her hometown, Mistlevale, a tiny village up west near Seattle. Most of her family is still here.
The first day back, she’s at her grandmother’s house with her niece, when the three of them find a dead body in the backyard — and it looks as though thorny vines have grown out of the man’s skull through his eye sockets.
But her grandmother doesn’t want to call the police. The reason? The last time she saw the dead guy she threatened to kill him. Plus, her grandmother has been having memory issues lately. Maybe she did kill the guy.
I like Livbeth because she’s competent. She used to work as a court reporter, and knows how to deal with the police. And I like the cozy mystery with a touch of magic.
This is my kind of book and I’ll probably be back to finish it.
4. Soulbound by Bethany Adams
This is the first of nine books in the The Return of Elves coming of age fantasy series. The other books are $0.99 to $3.99 each. The ninth books is currently available for pre-order, it is $3.99 and will be coming out in May. The series is not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Soulbound begins with a prologue. Three years ago, Arlyn’s mother died and her dying wish was that Arlyn would go through a portal to another world to find the elven father who doesn’t even know she exists. Arlyn works selling bows at Renaissance Fairs. Two days ago, Kai is attacked by yet another assassin. He’s been sent to ask the elven queen to send her underhill mages to the surface realm, and it’s not going well. Something is wrong with her kingdom, and he needs to find out what, and do it quickly.
Now, in the present day, Arlyn finds her dad, Lyr, after months of searching in the mists. He’s elven nobility, and now she’s got a title as well. Kai is his emissary. I’m guessing that Kai and Arlyn are going to end up together.
Kai comes back from the queen’s domain without any answers or promises, just the knowledge that some poison energy was creeping into her realm.
I like Kai. I don’t know how I feel about Arlyn. I’m a little annoyed that the author skipped over the whole part where she first goes into the elven world and how she finds her dad. Also, she drops her phone when she finds her dad. Why is she still carrying her phone in her pocket and automatically reaching for it? Shouldn’t it be packed safely away, along with its charger, in her pack, ready to be plugged in and used when she returned to earth?
Kai finds the dropped, broken phone and immediately knows that he has to find its owner no matter what. Isn’t that a coincidence?
I’m not going to keep reading the book. Not because of the phone thing. If I’m enjoying a book, it wouldn’t have bothered me. But while the writing is very readable — it certainly wouldn’t be a hardship to finish the book — it doesn’t really pull me in.
5. Stormwielder by Aaron Hodges
This is the first of nine books in The Three Nations Nordic myth and legend fantasy series. The other books are $3.99 to $5.99 each and are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Korolov:
Stormwielder is a fantasy book about a man on a quest in a dangerous world full of gods and demons. If you’re into fantasy adventure stories, this book is for you.
I found the beginning a little strange, as the main character appears to have a direct visit from a Goddess who just materializes out of nowhere. But hey, it’s a fantasy book and these sorts of things happen. I’d keep reading.
Alastair is a seasoned old warrior who’s on a mission for the Goddess Antonia. He’s dedicated the past two years to searching for his lost family because Antonia told him to find them.
The Goddess appears to him in the night to tell him that someone else has found them first and he can reunite with them soon, but first, he must help someone in need.
Eric is a young man who’s been wandering alone for two years, exiling himself from human contact because he has dangerous powers that he can’t control, and they tend to kill people — a lot of people.
Eric finally ventures into a town, loses control, and things go south quickly. But Antonia has sent Alastair to help him, and their journey together begins.
6. First Blade by Jane Hinchey
This is the first of three books in the Awakening urban fantasy series. The other books are $4.99 each and are not in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
The book starts right out in the middle of a battle, a group of warriors led by Zak, who has magical abilities, are fighting demons. They win the battle, but at the end of it one of Zak’s men notices that the ring Zak wears was glowing red. That means that a dagger has been found and activated with blood.
I’m guessing it’s some kind of mystical, magical dagger and that it portends doom for all.
In the next chapter, we meet Georgia. She’s been moving things around in her stable when she found a secret hiding hole. When she put her hand inside, she cut herself.
I’m guessing that this is the fateful dagger that Zak was worried about.
Nearly every night over the course of the following month Georgia dreams about a man who’s the epitome of sensuality, male magnetism, and allure. She’s wondering if her dreams are being invaded. Turns out, Georgia has the ability to see visions. She can touch a person and see a glimpse of their future. The dreams are different, but she knows that they must be connected. She just has to figure out how.
Georgia owns and runs an antique shop with her sister. A few years earlier, she bought five acres of land twenty minutes out of town, complete with a derelict farmhouse that she renovated and now lives in, and an old stable. Her best friend is a cop, and also a werewolf.
Her friend’s the one who tells her that the old homestead up the road from where she lives has just been bought. The guy who bought it? Georgia’s favorite author, Zak Goodwin. Seems that his old place was totaled and he’s looking for a change of pace.
I take it that this is the same Zak from chapter one, and that he and Georgia are going to get together.
I’m not a fan of the romance storyline, but I do like Georgia. She’s a carpenter and did most of her own renovations on her house, and also restores the pieces she sells in her shop. I’ll probably keep reading.
7. Knights, Witches, and Murder by R.M. Schultz
From Amira Loutfi:
The tone is somber. It is set in a secondary world, snowy and magical, with a robust religious order that mirrors the Catholic church.
Calec’s mother was a witch and her Druid parents raised him. The religious order in this world hates witches, Druids, and pagans. Calec was knighted after he rejected his magical past, and the king still views him as being especially knowledgeable about the occult. He is called out to investigate supernatural occurrences for this reason.
One day a couple of vicars, along with his girlfriend and her chaperone, pull him away to investigate something obscene. It is dead sheep. The sheep have strange markings on their hooves and their eyes are smoking red.
The group fears that the sheep may have contracted a plague. They decide to burn the entire forest with all the sheep in it.
I probably won’t be back because I’m not curious enough about what happened to the sheep. I can certainly see why others like it though! I really like how it’s written.
8. Starship Alexander by Jake Elwood
This is the first of three books in The Hive Invasion science fiction series. The other books are $3.99 each and in Kindle Unlimited.
From Alex Korolov:
I know this book is supposed to have aliens and spaceship battles, but I got all the way to chapter seven without a single shot fired and not even one alien, hostile or otherwise.
The Alexander is a relic. It’s the last warship that remains long after a war between Earth and some outer colony planets ended.
The ship is ready to be decommissioned and her captain, Richard Hammett, is about to retire. The ship is going on its last trip, a training mission to give some cadets one last chance to serve on a real warship.
But something is wrong in space – three jump gates have gone out. Jump gates connect Earth to her fourteen colonies, and without them, travel between planets is a lot slower.
The first seven chapters are all about getting to know the main characters and getting them aboard the Alexander, which is as far as I got for this review.
I usually like a book to have more action right from the start, and I found this one to be slow. But if you’re into getting to know your characters before they start fighting the aliens, this book might be for you.
9. The Last Shadow Knight by Michael Webb
This is the first book of three in The Shadow Knights young adult epic fantasy series. The sequel, Rise of the Shadow, is $4.99, and the third book of the trilogy, Shadow of Destiny, is currently available for pre-order for $4.99 and will be coming out in August. All three books are in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Veron is a street kid in Karad, a corrupt city where the authorities treat both law-abiding residents and petty criminals alike with disdain. Veron’s best friend is killed after the two of them rob the house of a tax collector and now Veron is all alone, living in an abandoned house, wishing for a better life.
Meanwhile, Brixton is another teenager in the same city, but his life couldn’t be more different. Brixton’s father has been Karad’s Lord of Commerce for the past five years and his life has been filled with affluence, privilege, and private tutors.
His father is a cruel, mean-spirited jerk, but Brixton seems like a nice kid trying to do his best. Instead of following in his father’s footsteps, he’d rather own a bakery.
Back to Veron. While trying to rob another house, he meets an old man, the last of the shadow knights who used to protect the kingdom. Turns out, Veron is the son of one or the other knights. His father was sworn to remain unmarried, and his mother died in childbirth, so he was raised in an orphanage.
The story is slow to get going, but the world-building is rich and complex. I like the main characters. I’m not usually a fan of young adult stories, but I might stick with this one.
From Amira Loutfi:
This tale is fast-paced, and the more somber the tone tries to be the cheesier it sounds.
There are two main plots I can see forming. There is a long struggle for control over a city between good and evil royalty. The second plot thread is a struggle for survival by a 13-year-old street urchin.
The shadow knights appear in the prologue, thwarting a coup attempt by a horde that is clearly all evil. The shadow knights kill them all in the blink of an eye. It is clearly a powerful set of good guys, but as we read on, we learn that they must have dropped the ball at some point.
Ten years later, an evil king is in power. He has a son who is naturally very kind — the opposite of Joffery Lannister.
Meanwhile, the street urchin has a medallion with the initials SK, which he got from his father while he was really little. I am betting that stands for shadow knight and the street urchin will eventually become one. Probably he will team up with the kind prince.
This is a bit on the nose, but I like it. I can see why others do too. I bet it’s really satisfying when the street urchin becomes a shadow knight and the kind prince murders his father… wait, what! Patricide wouldn’t match the tone of this story at all! I’m certainly not getting tragedy vibes from these opening chapters. I’m getting a good guys will always prevail kind of vibe.
Will I be back? Sure! Why wouldn’t I want to see the good guys win? It’ll be a nice break from all the doom and gloom I’m getting from my current read — A Song of Ice and Fire. I always need a pallet cleanser after one of those.
10. Project Quetzalcoatl by Jonathan Maas
This is a standalone sci-fi novella. The author, Jonathan Maas, has many other books available on Amazon and they are all in Kindle Unlimited.
From Maria Korolov:
Project Quetzalcoatl is described as a standalone novella, but, according to the description, it’s part of a bigger series, Kulkuz: Angel of the Neanderthals.
The angels destroyed human society in order to eradicate all remnants of Neanderthal genetics. The only one who tried to stop it was a renegade angel named Kukuz. She failed, anyone with Neanderthal genes was killed, and a purely human society was reconstructed by the other angels.
It’s now nearly fifty thousand years later.
Dexl is in a submarine, accompanied by a pod of neurologically enhanced dolphins. His job is to protect a brachiosaur who’s about to hatch an egg in a lagoon — then defend the infant against the fiercest aquatic predator the world has ever known, the mosasaur.
It’s the first brachiosaur egg laid outside a laboratory since the dinosaurs had been revivified.
But the mosasaur is just as valuable. Dexl doesn’t want to kill it if he doesn’t have to.
I’m confused about the setting. Is this a future Earth? An alternate history?
Anyway, once Dexl is done with the whole brachiosaur situation, he’s offered another mission, a much more dangerous and important one, a mission that could change everything. The mission takes a long time to get going. Seems there’s a human colony out in space. Frozen embryos were sent to a distant planet, accompanied by robots who raised the embryos. Technology has since improved, and adults can now be sent as well. Dexl is being sent there, on a one-way mission, to find out what happened to one of the colonists.
And for some reason the colonists are into the god Quetzalcoatl.
I’m nearly half-way through the book, and I’m still very confused about what’s going on here. I probably won’t be finishing it.
Have you read any of these books? Are you planning to? Let us know in the comments!
Watch Maria and Amira discuss today’s books in the video below: